Inside Look: Weston Playhouse Stage Management Internship

The following article continues a series devoted to stage management training programs (undergrad, grad, internships, etc.) across the country from the perspective of working stage managers who attended them. – Hope Rose Kelly (Editor-in-Chief)

Weston Playhouse Theatre Company – Weston, VT

Stage Management Internship – 2014

By Kyle P. Gillikin and Nicki Berger

This program takes place during the summer stock season and the length of the position was from the end of May until middle August. I interviewed for this position in person at SETC with the Production Manager and Associate Production Manager and then filled out an application following the interview and sent recommendation letters by email. This was a very quick process, due to the nature of  SETC. The position was compensated at $100.00 a week and housing was provided

The duties involved supporting the Stage Management team on 2 or 3 productions throughout the season during pre-production, rehearsal, tech, and performance weeks. Assisting with all rehearsal needs, creation of necessary paperwork, schedules, inter-departmental communications, attending production meetings, taking notes, and sometimes serving on show run crew backstage as needed.  In reality you act as an ASM on the children’s musical at their smaller venue and a second ASM for the mainstage musical under the Equity ASM and PSM. You also assist in the upkeep, cleanup and maintenance of work areas, rehearsal and performance spaces, office equipment, assist in other departments as assigned, attend intern meetings, provide support for special events or company projects as needed. There is an intern company of 24, two of which are Stage Management Interns.

Both of the productions I (Kyle) worked on were musicals. A smaller children’s musical with Weston’s young company (Schoolhouse Rock Live!) and on a mainstage musical (Mamma Mia!). However I was also able to work on a reunion concert they put on that season as part of their 80th anniversary. We rehearsed six days a week with one day off most weeks as well as attending any production and intern meetings as needed. The tech process involved two 10 of 12’s followed by two days of morning rehearsals and a preview performance later that day and the second day the rehearsal was followed by the opening performance. Both productions did eight shows a week.

This program offered a great opportunity to dive right in and start working with professionals in the industry while having the large teaching emphasis put into their intern program. You are able to go right into rehearsals for these productions, start working with the rest of the stage management team and learn from them. You can also earn EMC points for some of the work. This program also requires you to attend a weekly intern meeting, where we sit down with one or more of the artists that came in to work on a particular project and speak to them about their lives and/or a particular topic.

Highlights of the experience included living in the housing with a great group of people, a lot of which we are still friends with; being in beautiful Vermont, enjoying the views and being able to disconnect for a little bit; the close community the stage managers make among themselves – we had multiple nights of getting together, sharing a drink and talking for hours listening to everyone’s stories; they also offered a stage management round table to anyone who wished to participate; and getting to work with some great people, some of which will let you be in their infamous cabaret. Being around for the 80th celebration was amazing. There are so few theaters in America that have been running that long. We threw a parade, invited past performers out for a cabaret, and had a community celebration. The community and history of Weston is a big part of the experience and it was never celebrated more than at the 80th anniversary.

This program helped me (Kyle) learn how to be a better manager and how translatable all of my skills. Since leaving Weston I have been working as a stage manager for Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia – starting out there as an event operations stage manager and continuing on to be a show operations stage manager and area supervisor for the park. Almost every theater I have worked at since leaving Weston I have met another technician or performer who is part of the Weston family and it has created great conversations, instant bonding and networking. I’m (Nikki) currently working as a PA at Hartford Stage through connections I made at Weston.

We could recommend this program to anyone looking for more experience working at a professional Equity theatre. Mostly undergrad and grad students, due to the educational nature of this internship and how the people you work with want you to learn and succeed.

Inside Look: Ithaca College Stage Management

The following article continues a series devoted to stage management training programs (undergrad, grad, internships, etc.) across the country from the perspective of working stage managers who attended them. – Hope Rose Kelly (Editor-in-Chief)

Ithaca College – Ithaca, NY

B.A. Theatre Studies – Concentration in Stage Management – 2013-2016

By Liza Miller

As a graduate of Ithaca College’s Theatre Arts Department I regularly implement my education in my work. Before I chose Ithaca, determined to become a stage manager, the only thing I had stage managed was my high school’s talent show. My high school was small and there was no theatre department, only a drama club. There were only two backstage crew and everyone else was an actor. I chose Ithaca College because it is located in Ithaca, New York – one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The city feels like the middle of nowhere but the mountains and the lake are breath taking and there is plenty of hiking. I chose the Department of Theatre Arts because everyone I met was friendly and bright and honestly in love with their school. So…lacking all knowledge of actual stage management ICTA accepted me with open arms and gave me the fundamental skills and practical experience required to succeed after graduation.

Ithaca Theatre Department has five majors. All of them are undergraduate degrees and when I went there (2013 – 2016) if you primarily focused on stage management you were a B.A. Theatre Studies major. You don’t graduate with a degree in stage management but there were unofficial paths within the major that a student could choose to follow or not; Stage Management being one. The B.A took four years to complete and you must interview to be accepted into the major. When I applied I had to submit a resume, and a letter explaining why I wanted to be a B.A. I was then contacted by the department to set up an interview. One of the B.A. professors met with me, looked over what I submitted with my application and then asked me a few questions. I was very nervous (which was completely unnecessary) so I honestly don’t remember it very well.

Most class years have three to five stage managers but in my year there were ten by graduation. Ithaca has 2 main stage theaters and 5 studios, one of which is a small 50 seat theater. There are 6 main stage productions and an unbelievable amount of student produced productions every year. There are also productions and presentations connected to the directing, play writing and performance classes. The main stages include 3 plays, 2 musicals and 1 opera. Every other year a play was replaced by a dance show. As a stage manager you would be assigned to a production in addition to your daily classes. If you entered the program as a freshman you would shadow an SM team during the fall semester and be a Production Assistant in the Spring. As a sophomore you would be assigned as a PA again or you may become an Assistant Stage Manager depending on your abilities and skills. Junior year you would usually be an ASM or a Production Stage Manager for one of the smaller shows in the studio theaters. Senior year most Stage Managers will PSM a mainstage show.

None of the assignments were guaranteed. Other than the initial shadow assignment all positions were based on merit and performance. At Ithaca there is an Instructor called the Stage Management Production Mentor. They would teach the class “Stage Management I” held every fall semester and also be responsible for reviewing your performance at the end of the show. The reviews were important but fairly relaxed. Everyone you interacted with, student and professor, would be able to submit an evaluation of your skills to the SM Mentor anonymously and then the mentor shared the evaluations in the student’s review in a constructive and educational way with a focus on how to improve on mistakes.

One of the amazing things about Ithaca’s Theatre Department was that every rehearsal, tech and performance was run like an Equity level production. When I was a PA on my first Off-Broadway production I was happily surprised to find that everything I did as a PA in college was the same as what I needed to do in a professional production. The paperwork was the same, the breaks were the same and the responsibilities were the same. This goes for the ASM and PSM duties at Ithaca as well.

Ithaca College holds classes Monday to Friday so rehearsals would be held 7pm – 10pm, Monday to Friday with a 5 hour rehearsal on either Saturday or Sunday. Tech usually started on a Thursday and went from 7pm – 11pm, Friday was 7pm – 11pm and then there was usually a 10 out of 12 on Saturday or Sunday and then Monday was 7pm-11pm with First preview on Tuesday night.

I felt that the Ithaca College SM program required you to be self-motivated. They give you all the tools and experience you need to start and then they expect you to run with it. The SM mentor was always there to answer questions and supervised tech but you were also expected to be independent and hold your own. You must run the rehearsal room and production meetings and the performances were all on the stage managers. Though competitive, Ithaca was never hostile. I always felt that students had healthy respect for each other even in stressful situations. Professors were always rooting for their students and ready with an encouraging word or constructive criticism. I feel that the program was equal parts education and experience and students had the freedom to make mistakes in a professional setting.

Since graduation, Liza has worked in NYC at Classic Stage Company and Signature Theatre. As of 2018, she gained her card with Actors’ Equity Association.

Inside Look: Emerson College BFA Stage Management

The following article continues a series devoted to stage management training programs (undergrad, grad, internships, etc.) across the country from the perspective of working stage managers who attended them. – Hope Rose Kelly (Editor-in-Chief)

Emerson College – Boston, MA

BFA Stage & Production Management – 2013-2017

By Jessica Kemp

I come from a very small town in Upstate New York – the Adirondacks. My big sister introduced me to the world of théâtre and dance, but I eventually fell into stage management after I watched a scene change in a community theatre production of The Sound of Music take five minutes and cringed. I never fully committed to any trade. I balanced dance, stage management, vocal performances, and acting throughout my high school years. When it came time for me to think about life after high school, I had no clue, which is perfectly normal! I knew I wanted a small college. Large groups of people overwhelm me and I enjoyed my small hometown class size. The thought of a huge campus that took 30 minutes just to walk across terrified me and because of dance, I learn better in a one-on-one situation. My years of school and dance also made me realize that I’m a tactile learner and I have never been one to enjoy down-time for more than a few days.

EMERSON COLLEGE – THE SCHOOL IN A SNAPSHOT.

Emerson College is a small “liberal arts” college in Boston Proper with roughly 4,000 students on its campus. I say “liberal arts” because the BFA Stage & Production Management track itself is really a conservatory. The campus is the size of two blocks along Boylston St. with a Los Angeles campus and a castle in the Netherlands where you can study abroad. There are a few main schools within the college: Visual Media Arts (aka film); Writing, Literature, Publishing; Journalism; Communication Studies; Communication Sciences & Disorders; Political Communications; Marketing Communication; Liberal and Interdisciplinary Studies; and the Performing Arts. The BFA Stage & Production Management major lives within Performing Arts and all Performing Arts majors are Fine Arts majors – there is no BA option. Most students are undergrads but there are a few masters programs in each school. You can create your own major (called IDIP) if you don’t find a perfect fit and even dip into Entrepreneurial Studies. Emerson can fund your great new business and help you get started.

The culture at Emerson is to always be on the go – there isn’t a lot of down-time, and most people at Emerson like it that way: have an internship, be in five student organizations, go all the way in a class project, hold a job, study. I found that most people here have set their goals very, very high; they come in knowing what they want to do. There is a lot of creative energy. It’s exhausting and exhilarating at the same time.

It is difficult, as a performing arts major, to transcend and break into any other schools or fields, but extra-curricular activities are in abundance and minors are relatively achievable. You can work at a radio station or on live-broadcast TV shows put on by students, be in an a capella group, help with student-produced films. I chose to minor in American Sign Language. The Emerson Experience is what you make of it. No two Emerson educations are exactly alike.

BFA STAGE & PRODUCTION MANAGEMENT – AN OVERVIEW.

Emerson College has a tremendous technical theatre program. It’s not something I, or my beloved colleagues, quite realized until we went out into the real world. Below are some of the highlights of the college, the BFA Stage & Production Management degree, and other opportunities available to you at Emerson.

The Woman in Charge of the Program. The Stage & Production Management department is headed by our fearless leader, Debra Acquavella (from here-on Deb). She is an artist with a vast wealth of knowledge in regional and commercial theatre which will benefit your education.

Classes. You are required to take four stage management classes, one production stage management class, one arts management class, and some craft classes to learn what carpenters, electricians, and stitchers do on a daily basis. The Performing Arts department requires that you take a few overview theatre classes and that’s where you’ll meet your fellow acting, directing, and technical theatre majors. As you see, this major is highly stage management skewed, but the production management class is taught by a real-life production manager who comes in on his day off to teach and you work alongside a production manager daily.

Emerson Stage. Emerson Stage is its own little beast. Based off of the LORT model, Emerson Stage is a “company” that produces theatre all year round so students can gain practical experience. The General Manager, Assistant to the General Manager, Production Manager, and directors are all staff members. Students learn how to create theatre through Emerson Stage with assignments and guidance from an advisor. Though involved every year, Stage & Production Management students receive credit for these Emerson Stage shows junior and senior year – and they are involved in both stage management and production management capacities (we call these production management positions production supervisors). You start from the bottom in both tracks and work your way up to stage manage and/or production manage your senior year. Emerson Stage produces a variety of work which gives students access to classic plays, a fall musical/revue, a spring musical, and a spring month-long festival of new works by student and professional playwrights. When Stage & Production Management students receive class credit for the productions you will meet with Deb once a week in a class called Production Projects. In Production Projects, you discuss challenges within your own show as well as your classmates. Deb will encourage you to work in the props department on one of these shows, and some Stage & Production Management students have even gained experience in the sound and lighting departments. The more experience you get in each field, the more it will aid you as a stage manager.

Student Theater Organizations. Alongside Emerson Stage, some people find their theatre communities through student theater organizations. These are completely student produced works, where anybody can dabble in any field. Journalism majors can audition, marketing majors can be in a dance troupe, and a stage manager can try their hand at lighting design. It’s really quite incredible to see the work done for and by your peers. These are extremely low budget productions that tech in a few hours and are open for a couple of performances. You are not tied to a supervisor/advisor in these organizations, and your first year at Emerson you will need permission from Deb to participate in a production or stage management capacity. This isn’t as cruel as it sounds. The first year of college is a lot, this program is a lot of time and effort, and these student productions will take you by storm if you aren’t prepared. She wants to make sure you have the groundwork laid out for your own mental and physical health before you explore student theatre.

The Theatres & Rehearsal Space. Emerson has a surprising amount of room for such a small campus. Emerson calls six theaters home, and has nine studio/rehearsal spaces and countless private practice rooms across its campus. The Greene Theater is your traditional 100-seat proscenium theater, the Semel Theater holds a bit more and is a ¾ thrust. The Jackie Liebergott Black Box molds to whatever shape the designer and director decide. The majority of Emerson Stage productions will happen on these stages. Student theater organizations will produce most of their work in the Cabaret (the Cab), which is a smaller black box theater. The Paramount and Majestic Theatres are the largest stages and have the largest houses, but are kept busy throughout the year with ArtsEmerson productions. Emerson Stage traditionally puts up one show in the Paramount and one in the Majestic each year. Emerson College also owns The Emerson Colonial Theater, which, in its heyday, was home to many Broadway tryouts (Bob Fosse tap danced on the table – there’s still a chip). In 2018, the Ambassador Theatre Group will have a lease on The Colonial opening with Moulin Rouge. 

Internships and Outside Work. A large portion of your education will be outside of the Emerson bubble. While it isn’t required, you will most likely obtain an internship or outside experience of some kind in the Greater Boston area. Some of these experiences are paid and some of them aren’t. During my time at Emerson, my classmates worked at Huntington Theatre Company, American Repertory Theater, Actors Shakespeare Project, Central Square Theatre, Speakeasy Stage Company, Lyric Stage Company… the list goes on. These opportunities are invaluable, attainable, and encouraged. This business is incredibly small and someone with a connection to Emerson works at each one of these amazing companies. You will also be encouraged to do theater in the summer by way of internships or jobs, but it is important to remember that these are not necessary. While they are great for your career and you will come back to the fall semester having grown so much, your mental health is also important. If you need the summer off, you need the summer off.

Studying Abroad. You can certainly study abroad, but as a Stage & Production Management student, you have to prepare ahead of time for this. The most popular place to study abroad is in the Netherlands. Emerson owns a castle called Kasteel Well. In this program, you are in Europe for a fall, spring, or summer semester, and you travel to different places on the weekend. Food is not offered at the castle on weekends, basically encouraging you to go elsewhere. For those who went, I know it drastically changed their lives. They forged new friendships and learned more about themselves than they ever thought possible.

Stage & Production Management students can only attend the fall semester of their sophomore year. This is just the way it works out given all the different classes you have to take to earn your degree. I did know a student who went in the summer session, but class selection is extremely limited. Here’s the other catch: it’s a lottery system. A certain percentage of Performing Arts, Journalism, WLP (and so forth) students are selected to go at random. I was number two on the wait list when I left my freshman year. If people had dropped out, I could have gone. The college also encourages you to have $6,000 set aside for your semester, so get that second job now.

Another popular place to study away from Boston is Emerson Los Angeles. This is our Los Angeles campus that typically gets you an internship in the film industry. A Stage & Production Management student was the first to go in my time there and she worked as an executive assistant. If you’re interested in the west coast, the film industry, or want to find other ways to develop leadership skills, I highly recommend this. There are, of course, other places to study abroad!

The ProArts Consortium. This is an incredible opportunity that I, honestly, never took advantage of. At the most basic level, a bunch of art schools in Boston got together and said, “Sure! We’ll take some students from your school if you take some students from our school for a class and still have those credits count. Why not?” This means that if you’re interested in taking dance classes at Boston Conservatory/Berklee, you most likely can. A classmate of mine took a bookmaking class at MassArt.

THE APPLICATION PROCESS.

The Application. Emerson holds their application on the CommonApp and will require some supplemental materials. There is the opportunity to apply for their Honors Program there as well, which requires more writing. You will apply to the school and schedule an interview separately.

The Interview. Emerson College has an interview process. You must be accepted into the school and accepted into the program separately. Deb travels to different cities throughout the year and conducts interviews in NYC, Chicago, and Boston. You can even phone in internationally to speak with her. You’ll have to come to your interview with a 1” portfolio of your work, including pictures and any documents that you’ve worked on. Don’t bring in an entire prompt book, but bring in some complicated blocking pages if you have them. Did you make a calendar? Put that in too.

Deb’s interview stuck out amongst the rest of the other colleges. It was the first interview I had that wasn’t in a sterile room. Her office has personality, and her bookshelves show history. Deb doesn’t just look to see what you already know. She just wants you to succeed. In fact, she’ll breeze through your portfolio and then set it aside to talk to you. She looks to see if you’re a good fit for the school and for her department. She wants to get to know you, not just your work, in those few short minutes. Freshman year, her students will start from different spots on the path but her goal is to get you all walking together down that yellow brick road. You will work one-on-one with this woman for four years. Interview her as much as she does you. Just be yourself walking into that room, because that’s what she wants to see

How about those Standardized Tests? Academics are important to get into the college. Emerson doesn’t expect you to have a 4.0 in high school, but they do expect you to care about your studies. So study for those SATs and study before your tests. You can apply to be a part of the Honors Program, which cuts your tuition in half. If you choose this, you must write a thesis in order to graduate and will take classes that are only held for Honors students

OKAY, OKAY. BUT FOR REAL. ARE THERE ANY CONS?

Like all schools, of course there are. My main concern with the college is that I believe they are looking to expand their student population. There are more students than the college and its facilities can currently hold, and that causes extra stress on everyone. The student to professor ratio is increasing while the classrooms themselves are staying the same size, so it’s a tight squeeze most of the time.

Without a doubt. While everyone at some point has some issues with the college – this will happen anywhere you go – the education I received at Emerson is incomparable. This program is strong and there will be no need for you to attend a graduate school, though an apprenticeship after graduation isn’t a bad idea just to break into the industry. As alumni, we emerge ready to jump into the field and ready to swim. The program boasts of alums continually working on and off Broadway (Miss Saigon, The Band’s Visit, Sleep No More), Cirque De Soleil’s Michael Jackson One in Las Vegas, tours like Rent and The Book of Mormon, TV live productions (Peter Pan), regional theaters all over the country, and so much more. The fact that you are able to take hold of your own education while at school truly means that you are able to take hold of your future.

Deb and the rest of the Performing Arts faculty really do care about each and every one of their students. Personal connections are made over the course of four years that won’t go away. The program not only focuses on your career, but also on your life. The trust and support you gain and create with your classmates will continue to grow after you leave Emerson. Their successes are my successes, too. I found the second family I didn’t know I needed.

Jessica Kemp is currently a Stage Management Apprentice at Actors Theatre of Louisville where she is now overcoming her childhood fear working on a fun new number called “Little Bunny Foo Foo”.

Inside Look: Williamstown Theatre Festival SM Internship

The following article continues a series devoted to stage management training programs (undergrad, grad, internships, etc.) across the country from the perspective of current stage managers who attended them. – Hope Rose Kelly (Editor-in-Chief)

Williamstown Theatre Festival – Williamstown, MA

Stage Management Intern 2015 & 2016

By Allison Kelly

I worked as a Stage Management Intern at Williamstown Theatre Festival for two summer seasons. Each season lasted from mid June to late August in Williamstown, Massachusetts on the Williams College campus. A few participants each summer would start in mid/late May in NYC and begin prepping and rehearsing a show there for about a week and a half before traveling to Williamstown.

This was an unpaid internship. You are responsible for your transportation, food, etc. My first summer I paid $500 for housing to stay in the campus dorms (which is basically required for interns). However, as a returnee my second summer, my housing fee for the dorms was waived.  If you work in New York at all you are responsible for your housing there.  The dorms are all single bed rooms with community bath shared between the “pod” of rooms (about 4-6 rooms). There is a shared kitchen and living space in each building.

The Stage Management department was comprised of 14-15 interns, a Resident PSM, a Resident ASM, and 4-5 more AEA SMs. SM interns tended to be current undergrad students or those who had just graduated. The Resident PSM is the head of the department and handles hiring the whole department, scheduling, doing all the things and PSMing two Main Stage shows. The Resident ASM helps the PSM and is the ASM on those 2 Main Stage shows. Other AEA SMs come in to stage manage the rest of the AEA shows of the summer. As interns we served as ASMs and PAs on the AEA shows and could SM, ASM, and PA non-eq shows and other events. The rest of the festival is pretty large as well between the other departments’ interns, staff, and the apprentices – it’s a crazy amount of people to make the festival happen. It’s a blast to get to meet and work with so many people.

As a stage management intern typically (but not always) you work on at least one AEA show and one non-eq show as well as various small projects. WTF has two stages, the Main Stage and the Nikos where its AEA shows perform. For those productions SM interns serve as ASMs and PAs to the AEA SM. On these productions you work on a typical AEA rehearsal and performance schedule. Sometimes this overlaps with other events you might have in the evenings or day off depending on your assignments. Tech is very quick, usually 2 or 3 days, then a few days of previews and rehearsals before opening. The AEA shows are a great experience because it allows you to work closely with AEA SMs and learn from them and all others in the room. WTF does a lot of new works so job duties can be managing script changes, prop and costume tracking, line notes/being on book, maintaining hospitality supplies, etc. It is almost exactly like working professionally but you are expected to ask more questions if you need to.

Non-eq shows usually followed AEA rehearsal schedules but tech and performances were a little quicker. These productions usually featured the Non-Eq company and apprentices. (Non-eq company: actors whose only job this summer is to be in shows and so they have the most time. Usually post undergrad or current grad students. Apprentices: actors who come to the festival to act but also work a lot as crew for various departments. They are usually overworked and tired, but they are a fun and talented group.) The non-eq shows give stage management interns the chance to be the PSM in addition to ASM and PA. Additionally, there are lots of one or two night events and readings that stage management helps with.

Other elements of your experience include a more official educational element, workshops on paperwork, unions, tour life, networking, etc. Because the internship is unpaid it has to have an education element which is done through workshops mostly lead by the Resident PSM but often features the other AEA SMs. (The quality of these can depend on how the leader prepares for them.) WTF is also good at the work hard, play hard element of summer stock. Play includes finding swimming holes, BBQs, opening parties and galas, more parties, and lip dub videos. There are a lot of late nights working but there are even more late nights of having fun with tons of amazing people.

The greatest part of the program was the incredible friendships I made. Working so hard with these people created incredible bonds for all of us which helps with your networking for future jobs. The interns I worked with my two summers at Williamstown are constantly helping each other find work, acting as a support system in this crazy industry, and the people I talk to everyday years later. This festival does a great job giving you the chance to start networking with the people there with you that summer, however it also opens you up to a large number of WTF alumni. If you are interested in working in New York this program is incredible because the AEA SMs are usually NYC based SMs which can help open doors if you do well over the summer. My AEA show transferred to Off-Broadway and the SM of that brought me back as the PA because of the work I had done the previous summer. The Resident PSM brought one of the interns on as a PA on Broadway. Nearly everyone in NYC has heard of this festival and knows the quality it creates and that helps when looking for work. I can easily say WTF has helped me find plenty of work since graduating from college.

 

Inside Look: Syracuse Stage SM Apprenticeship

The following article continues a series devoted to stage management training programs (undergrad, grad, internships, etc.) across the country from the perspective of current stage managers who attended them. – Hope Rose Kelly (Editor-in-Chief)

Syracuse Stage – Syracuse, NY

Stage Management Apprentice 2013-2014

By Paula R. Clarkson

Syracuse Stage is a LORT C Regional Theatre located in Syracuse, NY. The season spans from about August-May, typically including six shows of incredible variety. Two people are hired for the Stage Management Apprenticeship position, who typically alternate shows, so one of you is in rehearsal while the other is in performance. The theatre also operates extremely closely with the Syracuse University Drama Department with many of those students interning on shows and, in some cases, even cast.

Being an Equity house, all rehearsals and performances are subject to the Equity rulebook, which is very helpful to learn for someone hoping to join the union. We rehearsed 6 days a week, usually in a 10:00am-6:00pm type of schedule. A week of tech would lead into a brief Preview period, and then the show would open. Runs were usually about a month, with seven shows a week as standard, including Student Matinees and specialty performances for the hearing and vision impaired.

I originally found Syracuse Stage while hunting for a large regional LORT theatre that had a good diversity to its season. Personally, I enjoy everything from new musicals to Shakespeare, but would prefer not to do the same genre month after month. Syracuse Stage seemed to have a real emphasis on doing works that were not only entertaining, but could really challenge their audiences and enrich their community. On top of that, I was excited about the connection to Syracuse University. This partnership was one of the very few that I came across, and since I knew I wanted to teach one day, it really seemed like the ideal opportunity.

The interview process was a pleasure. Even if I had not ended up with the job, I would still look back on that conversation very fondly. Stuart, the PSM at Syracuse Stage, was warm, funny and truly wanted to get to know me as a person. I didn’t feel like any of the questions he asked me were a test and he genuinely seemed to appreciate my interest in his theatre. I had been lucky enough to have a few different interviews but after speaking with Stuart, there wasn’t anywhere I wanted to be more. He was open about his timeline for interviewing others and I heard back about getting the position within the timeframe that he communicated. I was thrilled.

The position itself did not disappoint. A lot of season-long internships or apprenticeships that I’d looked at put you in a Production Assistant type of role, where you are assisting the SM and ASM. But as great as some of them looked, I felt confident that I wanted to go somewhere where I would have more responsibility than making coffee and doing line notes. At Syracuse Stage, it is only the PSM and the Apprentice throughout rehearsals. I did all the backstage tracking for the shows I worked, including props, costumes, live flame, everything. I created the backstage crew tracks, and oversaw the crew when they were added at tech. All the shows were different, really giving me the chance to grow and work on different skill sets. As I’d hoped, some shows had SM Interns from the University, so I was learning, while also teaching others. It was a lot of responsibility but never unfulfilling. Stuart, who is also a professor for the Syracuse University Drama Department, is an excellent teacher. Even in the throes of a 10 out of 12, he made himself available for questions or help if I needed it.

The perks of Syracuse Stage were also arguably the best of anywhere that I applied. While they do not offer housing, I was paid enough to pay my rent and utilities with under half of what I made a month – about two paychecks. That left the next two paychecks free for me to use for whatever other means I needed to. Being a college town, it was not hard to find a cheap place near the theater to live. There are also buses in and out of Syracuse to Boston, Ithaca, New York City, and tons of other places. I had a car, but there is a public transportation system that I know works just fine for those who do not have a way to get around on their own.

I found a community of artists at Syracuse Stage that I have rarely found elsewhere. Not only was everyone unbelievably dedicated to putting on high quality shows, but they really support and like each other. It was extremely rare for me to not spend my day off with the friends I had made from work. Having been out of the program for 6 months now, I am still in constant contact with the people I met and I expect them to be friends of mine throughout my life and career.

Writing this reminds me of how much I miss being there and working with all those amazing people. I am currently finishing my first semester at the Yale School of Drama focusing in Stage Management and I know that I would not be here without the year I spent with Syracuse Stage. It taught me an immeasurable amount about regional theatre, challenged me to take risks, helped me gain confidence and solidified my decision that Stage Management was what I wanted to do with my life.

I would recommend the Apprenticeship to anyone who is ready to take the next step in terms of responsibility on an SM team, is interested in regional theatre, and truly wants to be involved in art that is relevant and thought provoking.

Inside Look: The Wilma Theater SM Internship

The following article continues a series devoted to stage management training programs (undergrad, grad, internships, etc.) across the country from the perspective of current stage managers who attended them. – Hope Rose Kelly (Editor-in-Chief)

The Wilma Theater – Philadelphia, PA

Stage Management Fellowship 2012-13

By Leonard Luvera

When I was searching for a job, I had a checklist list of essentials that I wanted to make sure were fulfilled: first and foremost a season-long position with good pay, summers free to travel and do summer stock, housing opportunities, a city with other theaters close by (I wanted to have the option of seeing other theaters and being involved in a larger theater-based community while making professional contacts with whoever I could), and a staff and production team that was adventurous and would help me grow professionally. I found that The Wilma Theater fulfilled this criteria.

The Wilma Fellowship pays $300 a week. You have the opportunity to be housed in the actor/artist apartments for a small rent fee in exchange for completing some simple company management tasks to keep up the building: taking out weekly trash, washing and replacing linens when artists move out, restocking apartments with essentials when new artists move in, and reporting problems/damages to the production manager and operations manager. The artist housing is located just three blocks from the theater so the commute to work was very easy. Rent was cheaper than finding a similar apartment in the otherwise expensive area. The apartment is right in the middle of center city, amid great nightlife, restaurants, other theaters, and beautiful parks. Because of these benefits, I found it to be a worthwhile alternative to finding my own housing in the city.

The Wilma was at the top of my list because I know they produce shows that challenge the actors, the production team, and the audience. Blanka Zizka, the Artistic Director, is fantastic to work with for this reason. She tests and inspires all who work with her. Blanka focuses on the actor’s process and the show’s evolution, which is far more exciting and engaging than only working towards a perfect product. She once reminded me that theater, like life, should be about the journey, not the destination, and has an incredibly inviting and relaxed demeanor and she made me feel as much a part of the production as she was. I had heard of The Wilma’s reputation and Blanka’s artistic philosophies because I went to school in Philadelphia. She promoted principles that I learned at Temple University; ones that I had grown to believe in. How could I not want to apply to an institution like that?

The application process consisted of sending in a cover letter, resume, and three references to Anne Holmes, the Eductation Director. First round interviews are held with Anne and the Wilma’s resident stage manager, Patreshettarlini (Pat) Adams. My interview took place via Skype, but I know they also do in-person interviews as well. After applicants are whittled down, a second in-person interview is conducted. As part of my interview at the theater, I had the opportunity to meet the Wilma production staff, attend a production department meeting, and was given a tour of the building and theater spaces. Eventually, only one candidate is offered the position each year.

If I remember correctly, Pat did not prefer phone interviews because she believes face-to-face conversations are best. This was a small but very important glimpse into the Wilma culture and our future relationship; it showed me that she was not just searching for a person to work for her, but instead was interested in getting to know me,and how I would work with her and in the existing theater infrastructure.

Throughout the year, I found her radiant personality made working with her like working with a best friend; she and I grew to become close friends in addition to coworkers. Her infectious laugh, young spirit, and overall positive attitude created a thriving environment for everyone around her. She fosters a warm and inviting atmosphere for people around her to feel safe to play and grow. As a veteran of the Wilma’s history, she has seen the company grow and develop, she showed me that finding a professional family to grow with was important for her, and I soon realized that I craved the same thing.

The Wilma’s mainstage season consists of four plays, for which the SM fellow functions as the sole assistant under Pat. Throughout the three-week rehearsal process, typical duties included creating the run book, creating preset lists, tracking all props and costumes, noting entrances and exits, and being on book when needed. At times, it would have been great to have another ASM in the rehearsal room to help cover some of the responsibilities. Not because the work didn’t get done, but because splitting up tasks would have made an even more thorough and organized experience for the artists.

Though rehearsals included the typical script work and blocking, a lot of early rehearsal time was spent playing and developing characters outside of the script. This is not to say that the final product was haphazardly stitched together at the end of the rehearsal process. The show as a whole usually took its shape in the final week of rehearsal on stage and throughout tech.

For this reason, technical rehearsals can feel long and challenging. For many of the shows, tech days consist of three of four hours of dry-tech time when actors are not present (giving the designers and director the opportunity to pre-cue) followed by a meal break. Then tech resumes with actors for an additional ten hours with a second meal break in the middle. Although these days can be a formidable challenge for anyone not properly prepared, it is ultimately a smart way to tech. It gave me the time to properly assign backstage duties for the show and work out transitions, which were usually very involved and needed precise timing. Additionally, lights, sound, props, and scenic elements had the time to be perfected and actors felt safe and secure while working on the set. After a dress rehearsal and almost a week of previews and extra rehearsals, the show opens for a four-week run.

The Wilma houses the dance company BalletX, a contemporary ballet ensemble that performs two shows in the midst of the Wilma’s season. Additionally, depending on how the season is laid out, there may be a few groups that rent the theater space for events, other shows, etc. For shows like these, I had the opportunity to ASM or SM for the various groups (a great complement to the work I was already doing).

I would advise that applicants have a professional internship under his or her belt before applying. The Wilma Fellowship is not for people who have only worked in college-level theater. Rather, it is for people who are sure stage management is the path they want to be on. Although there is a collaborative nature to theater, there are many times that you need to be self-sufficient and have prior knowledge of ASMing: how to run a desk, delegate effectively to others, etc. Not having this knowledge can be detrimental to the production.

Since leaving The Wilma, I have ASMed at other Philadelphia area theaters and am currently working at Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island. After I finished the fellowship, I felt completely ready for these then-terrifying “real world” jobs. I grew immensely working at the Wilma, professionally and as a person. I gained a deep respect for the craft of making theater and discovered how I as a stage manager fit into the process.  Working with a dedicated staff who cares deeply about each other and the work they produce made me proud to work in this business; I have never seen a more tight-knit family of coworkers. This fellowship was truly inspiring.

Inside Look: Yale School of Drama SM Grad Degree

The following article continues this series devoted to stage management training programs (undergrad, grad, internships, etc.) across the country from the perspective of current stage managers who attended them. – Hope Rose Kelly (Editor-in-Chief)

Yale School of Drama

MFA in Stage Management

By Nicole Marconi

The program takes three years to complete. The application/interview process is a two-step process. There is an online application that involves submitting your basic information, your educational history, your work history/resume, an essay about why you want to attend the school, three letters of recommendation, and an application fee. If the chair of the stage management department feels that you are qualified, she will bring you in to interview with her. All interviews are done in person. The class sizes are four people per class year.

The education tuition is mostly paid through loans.  The rest of the education cost is determined based on financial aid.  It determines contribution and how much you will be making based on the work-study rate. You may have to take out extra loans to help pay for the extra costs of grad school.

Housing is not provided at all. You have to figure out your own off campus housing. Yale University does have housing for graduate students, but there isn’t much available to the Drama School students.

The type of shows that you work on varies. There are Yale School of Drama shows and there are shows at the Yale Repertory Theatre. The chair of the department determines which shows you work on based on the calendar and your other production assignments. Your first year you work on certain shows, and then your shows get more advanced as you go through the program.

The average rehearsal week consists of Monday through Saturday rehearsals. Rehearsals take place after class, starting at 2:30pm and sometimes going as late as 11pm.

The average tech varies from show to show. Tech rehearsals can go anywhere from two days to five days. When working on a Yale Repertory Theatre production, the tech period is generally about five days.

The average performance period is Tuesday through Saturday. We sometimes have Wednesday matinee performances at Yale Rep. We do not have performances on Sunday or Mondays.

This program is unique because of the variety of shows that you get to work on. You get exposed to all different kinds of productions ranging from entirely student-produced works to the Yale Repertory Theatre produced shows. You are also get to work with other stage managers who are willing to mentor and help you out along the way. Having a sounding board for advice and your daily occurrences as a stage manager is one of the best things about the program. The kinds of shows that you work on are mostly new plays and classical plays. We do not get exposed to as much dance or opera. We also work on new musicals, mostly at Yale Repertory Theatre.

The courses that we took at Yale were varied. Some of them were across different departments, and others were just in ours. There were a few courses that stood out to me.  One in particular dealtwith the union, Actors’ Equity. It dealt with the rules of the various contracts and how to break them down.  Another course that I took dealt with the production contract and the various departments. It basically broke down the different departments and said how they all work together. It taught me a lot about IATSE and how the other unions work as well.  Other courses that I took involved basic costume construction, computer technology in theater, and prop construction.

The highlights of my experience were being able to meet different stage managers with different points of view on the field. I was able to talk to my teachers and classmates about things that I had been afraid to ask about before. The class structure and being in the proximity of other stage managers made it feel like a safe environment. I was able to stage manage a professional show at Yale Repertory Theatre which was one of the best experiences of my career so far. I did this in my final year (my third year) at school.

Going to graduate school has helped me out immensely. I have my Masters now so I can hopefully teach later on down the road. And the connections that I have been able to make along the way have been irreplaceable. Before I went to Yale, I discovered stage management in undergrad. I was originally a drama studies major, and stage managed shows for the department. I wanted to learn more about stage managing, so I started freelancing in New York City while going to school. Then I graduated and worked in NYC for 2 years. I did a multitude of internships, including an internship at The Public Theatre in Maine. I really learned how to be an ASM through these internships and learned a lot about myself as a stage manager.

I would recommend Yale to anyone who is looking for a very specialized program. You have to be certain that stage managing is something that you are really serious about. You should not apply to the program if you’re not sure about becoming a stage manager.

I am currently working as a freelance stage manager, primarily in NYC. I have traveled around the Northeast, going out of town for gigs that I find interesting. Since I have graduated, I have worked at a variety of companies such as the Yale School of Drama, Connecticut Repertory Theatre, and Shakespeare and Company, just to name a few. I am currently working as the ASM on Generations at Soho Rep.

Inside Look: The Juilliard School’s SM Intern Program

The following article is the first in a series devoted to stage management training programs (undergrad, grad, internships, etc.) across the country from the perspective of current stage managers who attended them. – Hope Rose Kelly (Editor-in-Chief)

The Juilliard School’s Professional Intern Program

Stage Management Intern- 2010-2011

By Tori Sheehan 

The application process for the Juilliard School’s Professional Intern Program was simple: an application, a small fee, a photo, three letters of recommendation, and a short essay about expectations and goals. I also went in for an interview with Helen Taynton, the woman who runs the program. I originally applied for the 2009-2010 group, but was turned down. However, Helen saw in me something I did not see in myself yet: I still had that false “king-of-the-hill” mentality that being a senior stage manager in college can give you. I was not ready for the real world yet. I needed some time to find myself and learn what I needed to work on when it came to my craft. She encouraged me to try again and when the deadline swung around again, I contacted Helen to see if I should still consider applying.

Helen has a bit of magic about her that makes you instantly feel at home, and she can read your needs exceedingly well. She can guide you to where you need to be, even if it is not this particular internship. I have come across several people who were turned down, but were pointed in the right direction by her and could not be more thankful.After a resoundingly positive phone call, I applied again, this time concentrating more on my essay about how I had grown in the past year and how I felt the program could help me grow further. I mentioned that I would be able to take one of the early August start dates and soon learned I was accepted.

There are two different start dates for the stage management interns. A few start in early August for a playwright’s festival and the rest roll in with the other interns in early September. There are nine stage management interns as well as four costumes, two wigs/makeup, three electrics, two props, two paints, and one technical director internship in production. In administration, there is one slot each for the drama division, orchestral management, vocal arts, and development/special projects for a total of 27 interns. You will find that your group will gather often and have a connection, though since there are so many stage managers, you will also have a tighter connection with them because there are nine of you crammed into one tiny office! The internship lasts through May – though depending on your final production this can be anywhere from mid to late May.

The program offers one of the highest paid internships of its kind, at $330/wk recently (when I did it, it was $295/wk, so it increases a little each year). You can also be a part of a program where they take out your transit costs (up to a point) before your taxes, which may not sound like a big deal, but it can be a ten dollar difference. There is always some discussion that you can pick up extra hours and make money as an usher but as a stage management intern, you are very unlikely to have the time to spare. You do have to find your own housing. However, you can work with the personnel at Juilliard who can point you to a few interim places while you search. The pay they give you of course does not line up with the full expense of living in NYC but it can work if you have something saved up to fill in the gaps or if you are particularly frugal. You are also on the Juilliard student health insurance, which is a bonus.

The way the program works is that you will be assigned to different departments: drama, dance, opera, and events. I went into the internship with zero opera experience and some dance experience but I was still given opportunities in all of the areas which is one of the draws of the program. You will either stage manage a smaller show, or assist on a larger one.

When you are the assistant, you are working under very experienced PSMs (many AEA or AGMA), who have been working in that particular field for many years, and can show you the ins and outs (this can come in handy for opera and dance, an experience which many universities do not give to young stage managers). There are large and small shows for each of the big three: dance, opera, and drama. Large shows involve full scale productions, whereas the smaller ones will have either fewer people or happen in their smaller spaces. For events, there are large orchestral evenings, or the recitals for the pre-college students (age 6-17) which can involve several large groups performing one after another.Smaller shows work with younger, up and coming designers, while the larger ones attract more experienced designers. Because there are internships in production, there is always a staff, so the stage manager does not usually end up running any boards. You also get credited for your position on the production, not as an intern. During my time in the program, I stage managed two productions, one small and one larger for drama, and then assisted in opera, dance, and drama for the rest of my track as well as doing a few concert events.

The duties are pretty standard: prep, rehearsal, backstage tracks or calling, attending production meetings. They try to create in each of the nine slots a track that includes calling one show, usually in dance or drama, and as an ASM on an opera you get the experience of cueing in the performers for their entrances. This is a good stepping stone from the academic atmosphere of college, where you are treated like a student, to the real world. In this program, you are expected to function as if you are not in an academic atmosphere, but the people are there to gently pull you aside and help you learn. Depending on the project, you are looking at either a five or six day rehearsal week, and generally only one of those days will be a five or six hour day. The rest will be short three or four hour rehearsals in the evening, because the performers have classes. Tech usually involves a few days in the space for spacing with most of the scenic elements, and then a few evenings of tech in costumes, followed by a ten out of twelve. Then there’s a dress rehearsal (which may be a part of the ten out of twelve) and then performances. Performance weeks tend to be truncated – maybe four performances a week and usually only one weekend. These kids have to get back to classes! (I say kids, but in the drama and opera divisions, you may find yourself working with student performers who are over 30, and in dance, as young as 16).

I chose this internship for many reasons. One was that it was located in New York City where I wanted to end up in my career (and be able to commute from home, saving money). Connections were another big reason – this internship has been going on for decades, and the people who were interns once are now the people hiring at major companies across the country. We had regular meetings with them discussing the business and what to do next. Financially this was one of the smartest choices to make as it paid higher than almost anything else. Many of us felt it was like going to grad school but without the price tag. Another bonus became clear afterwards: I head back regularly for some over hire hours, working events or run crew. It is some of the most reliable, flexible work to be found, and it pays well too!

Highlights of the internship, for me, include collaborating with some of the best people as part of the SM intern team, working on one of the largest stages I will be on for a long, long time, and learning, learning, learning about myself, my craft, and what it means to be a part of theatre. Your fellow interns will be your gateway to so many future jobs. And you’ll have the connections from the PSMs that you assist. Fun fact: when you have finished the program, you are a part of the Juilliard alumni, which comes with many perks. You get a card and everything.

Two years after I finished the program, I received my Equity card and now I have moved to the city to start taking advantage of all of the contacts I have made. I also spent the year after at Playwrights Horizons as one of their production assistants. I firmly believe that I can trace every job I have gotten to either my undergrad (Ithaca College) or to Juilliard. It shows you who you can be outside of school and if stage management is really where you want to be. I highly recommend it to those just out of undergrad or thinking of grad school a few years later. Juilliard provides you with a base to start from in NYC and this business in general. I would not give it up for the world.